I, Sith Chapter 1: EscapeThe waiting was always the hardest part of any job, sitting and wondering, waiting for the payout, wondering if you were betrayed and an an Imp agent was on their way instead of the runner. That's what they always were, just jobs. Paychecks, not people. Marks, suckers, fools. Attachments got you robbed, killed, or worse, an extended stay in an Imp prison. Maybe I was too cynical, but being born as property will do that to a girl, so I'm sure that The Force or whatever other higher power out there would forgive me for my cynicism. I licked my lip and couldn't help but smirk behind the cannibalized TIE-Fighter helmet that comprised part of my newest con. The Force might forgive me for my cynicism, but it wouldn't forgive me for the job I was working. There's only so much blasphemy that the universe could tolerate, right? I cracked my neck and rolled my shoulders, and felt for the cylinder attached to my belt, still there? Good. The next part was going to be more bluffing than skill, more art than science. Fortunately for me I'd learned the art of deception from one of the best. “Stop right there! Identify yourself, this is a restricted area!” A storm trooper, run of the mill infantry, yet it would be a fatal mistake to assume they were anything less than lethal, certainly more intimidating than a meter and a half of Rutian Twi'lek. But, I had planned for that, experience had taught me as much. I clenched my left hand into a fist and pulled that cylinder from my belt into my right hand and squared up to the much taller storm trooper. I set my jaw and fixed him with a glare from behind my own helmet, “What? Do you not recognize your betters when you see one?” I asked with a snarl, amplified by the vocoder in the mouthpiece. I rested my thumb against the release catch on the cylinder, if he made me, I'd prove my point. Then again, maybe I'd be better off bringing violence in early, that was like them, wasn't it? The trooper started to tense, his hand twitched on the grip of his blaster rifle, he was unsure. He had a job, but he was caught between a rock and a hard place. If he was wrong, it could mean his death. I snapped my thumb down on the catch and was rewarded with the snap-hiss of ignition and a red glow that washed over the troopers armor and illuminated the access courtyard, “I do not need to explain myself to you, now let me pass, trooper!” The sight of a Sith's lightsaber must have been enough to make up the trooper's mind, as he immediately stood at attention and saluted. “A-Apologies ma'am. You may pass!” "Of course I may!" I yelled back, fixing him with a cold stare, though he couldn't see it. He sounded a little younger than I'd have thought, but then this was the edge of remnant territory anyway, a backwater. Hardly a place for the more seasoned troopers; they were needed elsewhere. And that was just as well for me. A more seasoned trooper might have seen through the deception, might have questioned a little too much and then my entire plan would fall apart. I smirked behind the faceplate of my helmet. This was going just fine, after all, it was a backwater, right? Get past the first guard, then make my way to the hanger bay before said guard finally calls me in to his superior and realizes I'm bogus. Not that the light saber was a fraud though, that was probably the one part of this whole job that truly was legitimate… even if it wasn't originally mine. The job itself was simple, I had to get off of the planet before they realized who I was, that I might keep my freedom. The spaceport layout was actually rather simple. The Imperial presence on this world was somewhat minimal, and so the garrison was only a garrison in name. In actuality, they had a couple hangers in an otherwise civilian spaceport, and it was within those hangers that I'd find my salvation. My closed fist connected with the lock plate on the side of the pedestrian entrance to the docking bay, Alpha-Twelve, and the bulkhead retracted into the duracrete wall. In front of me, in all their glory, a pair of TIE fighters, in First Order livery. I looked at the chronometer set into my wrist-guard, it wouldn't be long before word got back that I wasn't who I said I was, and this whole situation got a lot more complicated. At least, I noted with a glance upwards, this wasn't one of those spaceports where the roof actually retracted after a ship docked. On the other hand, there wasn't much, short of star destroyer grade durasteel armor, that was going to stop a fully armed TIE from chewing its way out of a hanger bay. That might have looked a little more suspicious than I'd generally like, however. So, I strutted across the floor of the docking bay like I owned the place. The confident gait, black, imperial-esque helmet, and the light saber clipped to my hip helped to sell the deception that I belonged there, even if my height and species didn't fit the bill. They weren't the empire, not really, but calling them Imperial still seemed to fit. First Order was just like its predecessor in that it gave off the well-earned impression of being a humans only club. To fit in you had to be human, or human enough. Twi'leks didn't really fit the mold, you never saw a storm trooper helmet that lekku could fit in. But if we were important enough, force sensitive? They made exceptions. The rest of the time, we were property. “Never again,” I muttered under my breath, too quiet for the vocoder to pick up. I shook my head slightly, the nearest TIE looked to be a two seater. That meant TIE/SF, that meant shields, hyperdrive. It also meant that there was somebody on this planet who was a lot more important than I thought. Not as important as my old master but… It didn't matter, I could worry about that later when I had light-years behind me and not a Sith within fifteen systems of me. After all, my bluff only worked because the trooper believed it, and he only believed it because somebody acting that insane was believable. I'd been lucky in life, luckier than most slaves. Most Sith weren't like mine. A quick glance to the side indicated that I was clear for the moment, the initial shock of seeing a sith in the docking bay had worn off, so the troopers and staff did their best to look away and avoid my notice. I grabbed onto the boarding ladder and hoisted myself up onto the ball cockpit of the fighter as quickly and as quietly as I could. Everyone in the bay would know what was going on once I started the engines, but by that point it would be too late to stop me. The release catch for the boarding hatch was already open, and that suited me just fine. I stuck my fingers under the edge of the hatch and popped it open far enough to squeeze through the gap and dropped myself into the pilot's couch. Without a gunner I wouldn't be able use the turret or the launcher, but the engines and forward blasters would work just fine, and if I was lucky I wouldn't need the latter. I grabbed onto the control yoke with my left hand and shifted it around, not locked. I didn't expect it to be but it was always good to check. I un-clipped the modified helmet I was using as a disguise and tossed it into the netting alongside the control couch, I wouldn't be needing it, it wasn't airtight anyway. Finding any Imperial issue equipment that fit over Lekku was basically impossible, and I'd grown used to it. I pulled the restraints down over my shoulders and clipped them in, then reached up and began to toggle on my auxiliary systems. Battery power, backup life support, ignition pre-chargers, blaster capacitors. I hit the last switch and sealed the hatch with a 'thunk' and a hiss as the ball cockpit pressurized. I could see through the cockpit windscreen that dock workers were starting to look in my direction. I was out of time. Bluffing my way in one was thing, but an unauthorized and unscheduled launch was another. I slapped my hand down on the ignition and the twin ion engines shrieked to life in an instant. I twisted the throttle in my left handed grip and the repulsor lifts kicked in around the same time as the blaster pre-chargers finally flashed green. The TIE popped up off the docking bay floor and I stepped into the right rudder pedal and spun around my vertical axis towards the other TIE. My chest felt heavy, my skin slick with sweat. I was doing it. I was doing it. I was getting out, earning my freedom. From the Empire, the First Order, from my master, and from this planet. I pressed down the firing stud and green blaster bolts fired out of the under-cockpit cannons and turned the other fighter into a smoking hulk. Good enough, I hauled back on the yoke as I twisted and pushed the throttle, the fighter pivoted upwards to face the opening to the docking bay as the engines and repuslor lifts throttled up in concert and the fighter screamed out into the wide open blue sky. I was limited while still in atmosphere, I knew that from the time I’d stolen in simulators, the sooner I broke into orbit the sooner I could activate the hyperdrive and leave forever. Still, it shouldn't take long-- A bolt of crimson flashed between the solar panel and cockpit of my fighter, ground fire. I hadn't counted on that. I hauled the yoke over and spun the fighter into a tight left corkscrew, preserving my climb while making it a little less simple for them to get a solution on me. If my Master had been there, still been alive, it would have been trivial. For me, well, I was doing everything I could not to panic and die. Or get my lekku tangled up, the inertial dampeners hadn't quite calibrated themselves to planetary gravity, so every turn and twist was imposing G forces on my body, almost enough to make me wish I'd brought a roll of adhesive tape, if for no other reason then to stop them from flailing around with each maneuver. I angled the shields for double aft, and so far, at least as far as the sensors were concerned, no fighters had tried to pursue me. I wouldn't be in range of the space port canons for more than a few more seconds anyway. I allowed myself a small measure of relief as the incoming ground fire slowly tapered off and then stopped completely, this allowed me to smooth out my rapid ascent and avoid knocking myself silly with my own appendages. The air started to get thinner, and so I throttled the engines higher. The sooner I broke free of the gravity well, the sooner I could make the jump to lightspeed and then on to Ryloth, and from there… Well, maybe I hadn't planned that far ahead, though I'd been pretty good at deception so far on this backwater, so maybe I'd just take that show on the road. Something felt… wrong. It wasn't that it was too easy, luck explained more than anything else… there was just something nagging at me, an itch at the back of my mind-- I slammed the control yoke to the left and pushed the throttle up to the maximum setting, atmospheric heating be damned. An instant later green turbo-laser fire lanced past the ball cockpit of the TIE and the sensor array started to scream. A look at the scanner told me what I needed to know; a patrol cruiser had dropped out of hyperspace right on top of me, and it wasn't friendly. It wasn't a fight, it would be a slaughter. I hauled the yoke to the right through another corkscrew maneuver as another burst of turbo-laser fire flashed past. It wouldn't take more than a hit, my shields were proof against a few blasts from a snub fighter, not from a capital class turbo-laser battery. “Well, at least I'll die free...” I muttered as another green blast shot past the cockpit. They were getting closer, and I was depressingly predictable with my maneuvers, and if I wasn't careful they were going to run me down and catch me with a tractor beam. I took my left hand off the throttle and started to scroll through the readout on the navi-computer, slow going with my attention divided, if I couldn't find the right planet and plot the course-- Another shot, this one close enough to deflect off the shields, the warnings blared through the cockpit, shields were down, and the navi-computer went offline. I pulled the fighter into a tight clockwise corkscrew and grabbed onto the lever controlling the hyperdrive. If I was going to die, it wasn't going to be on the angry end of a turbo-laser battery. Maybe today wasn't such a good day after all. I pushed the levers forward and felt the sudden kick in the pants of the jump to lightspeed. Without coordinates I might fly into a star or an asteroid field or any number of deadly scenarios, but I still had a better chance than if I'd stayed behind to take my licks. Besides, if I remembered correctly a hyperdrive would disengage if you entered a planet's gravity well. That was the way interdictor cruisers worked to drag ships out of hyperspace. I was surely far enough away after even just a few minutes of hyperspace travel that they wouldn't be able to follow me, at least not right way, so I reached for the hyperdrive controls-- I slammed forward in the crash restraints despite the intertial dampeners as the fighter dropped out of hyperspace spontaneously, before I'd had a chance to deactivate the drive manually. The control yoke slammed full forward and the fighter went into a forward tumble and I could see light through the canopy as the sound of air rushing past the cockpit reached my ears. That was bad. The scream of the air and the engines was piercing, it made me feel like my teeth were vibrating inside of my skull as I fought the yoke for control. No easy task as the atmosphere of whatever planet I'd ended up on was catching the TIE's panels and dragging me every which way. The throttle was still maxed out from before, so I pulled the throttle back to idle and stepped into the rudder pedal, straightening the fighter out somewhat, though the controls were still sluggish as I was still dangerously over-speed, what little shields I had left were likely the only thing keeping the ship from melting from atmospheric friction. Even with the engines at idle, I wasn't slowing nearly enough. The devastated cityscape in front of me wouldn't be forgiving if I crashed into it at orbital velocity, and I wouldn't be the only one to do so from the look of it. Dozens, hundreds of crashed starships in what was once a massive city, if the still standing multi-hundred level buildings were any indication. I twisted the repulsor-lift throttle-grip and pulled back on the yoke to use the repulsor lifts as a braking thruster. It wasn't as if a TIE generated any aerodynamic lift anyway, so I didn't climb even with the 'nose' up attitude. I could almost let myself calm down, almost, as the airspeed dropped from 'terrifying' to 'mildly concerning', but sweat still covered every square centimeter of skin, and I still clenched onto the control yoke with a death grip. I was not an experienced pilot. I'd dabbled, airspeeders, landspeeders, simulators, that kind of thing. My master was the accomplished pilot, occasionally, very occasionally, he'd allow me to indulge, but this situation was so far out of my wheelhouse that I was just guessing. If it made sense, it was worth a shot, right? Still, I needed to see where I was going, so I stepped into my rudder and carefully rotated the ship, trying not to dip either of the panels into the airstream and cause the ship to tumble out of control again. The view through the forward canopy shifted from the sky, to the horizon, and then to the ground below, with the ship flying essentially down and backwards while it bled speed. I needed some place to land, and hide, and maybe scavenge or trade for parts to repair the navi-computer… or maybe an astromech droid. I eyeballed my trajectory, I wasn't any kind of mathematician but I did have a vague idea of where I was going to land if I kept going like this, a few degrees off that axis was a crashed capital ship, a bit like an old mark two star destroyer, but different. It had a dorsal hanger bay of some kind, and as luck would have it, that bay was ripped wide open, either in the crash of the mighty vessel or by scavengers in the years since. Though it wasn't a model I recognized in the slightest; it was either before my time or from a military I was unfamiliar with. It would have to do. I rolled the repulsor-lift throttled back to idle and pitched forward, then rolled over to level the TIE out. The sooner I set down and figured out how bad the damage was, the sooner I'd know how long I was trapped on this planet. On the bright side, at least it wasn't overrun with stormtroopers.